What’s your business library look like? How many books on leadership, business development, culture, strategic planning or other topics do you have on your shelves or on your electronic devices? I’m an avid reader and have over 100, mostly on bookshelves. There is one book that everyone, especially business owners, should be reading on a daily basis and that’s the Bible. When I had the opportunity in 2001 to become a business owner for the first time I bought a copy of Larry Burkett’s “Business by the Book”. Burkett wrote twenty one chapters on how to apply Biblical principles to running a business. It had a significant impact on how I ran my business and I continue to recommend it to business owners as a must read.
In addition to reading Burkett’s book though, you should go to his source material, the Bible. Why should business owners read the Bible? God uses the words of Paul to tell us one reason in 2nd Timothy, chapter 3, verses 16 and 17: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” It is filled with leadership examples, both good and bad versions. Did you know that the first example of delegation was described in Exodus chapter 18 when Jethro gave Moses instructions on how to select capable leaders from among the Israelites to assist Moses in resolving common disputes? The book of Proverbs of course is commonly known to contain much wisdom, being written primarily by Solomon. Here are a few verses from chapter one, speaking to its purpose (verse 2 through 4):
“Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, to help them understand the insights of the wise. Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives, to help them do what is right, just, and fair. These proverbs will give insight to the simple, knowledge and discernment to the young.”
Solomon reminds us in Ecclesiastes 1:9-10, “History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. Sometimes people say, “Here is something new!” But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new.” How much of the material in current business books is truly new information? The book of Psalms can be inspiring, both when you are at a high and when you are at a low.
In the Gospels Jesus teaches us how to interact with people and how to be a servant leader. Everyone knows the Golden Rule right? “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12). Isn’t that the basis of all excellent customer service?
The best approach is to read the Bible start to finish at least once and continue to read Bible passages on a daily basis. You will gain a lot of wisdom and understanding, applicable in business and life. The Old Testament tells the story of God’s creation and relationship with mankind and contains the creation of the universe, the history of the patriarchs, the exodus from Egypt, the formation of Israel as a nation, the subsequent decline and fall of the nation, the Prophets (who spoke for God), and the Wisdom Books. The New Testament (the name refers to the new covenant between God and humanity through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ) chronicles the life and ministry of Jesus, the growth and impact of the early church, and instructive letters to Christ followers and finishes with the end of the story, that all who have not turned away will live with God and Jesus in a new heaven on a new earth.
R.C. Sproul provides a good reading plan for those who want an overview but aren’t quite ready to read the whole Bible. Here is his list and you can read his article here: http://www.ligonier.org/blog/get-basic-overview-bible/. I would add the book of Revelation to his list.
The Old Testament overview:
- Genesis (the history of Creation, the fall, and God’s covenantal dealings with the patriarchs)
- Exodus (the history of Israel’s liberation and formation as a nation)
- Joshua (the history of the military conquest of the Promised Land)
- Judges (Israel’s transition from a tribal federation to a monarchy)
- 1 Samuel (Israel’s emerging monarchy under Saul and David)
- 2 Samuel (David’s reign)
- 1 Kings (Solomon and the divided kingdom)
- 2 Kings (the fall of Israel)
- Ezra (the Israelites’ return from exile)
- Nehemiah (the restoration of Jerusalem)
- Amos and Hosea (examples of minor prophets)
- Jeremiah (an example of a major prophet)
- Ecclesiastes (Wisdom Literature)
- Psalms and Proverbs (Hebrew poetry)
The New Testament overview:
- The Gospel of Luke (the life of Jesus)
- Acts (the early church)
- Ephesians (an introduction to the teaching of Paul)
- 1 Corinthians (life in the church)
- 1 Peter (an introduction to Peter)
- 1 Timothy (an introduction to the Pastoral Epistles)
- Hebrews (Christology)
- Romans (Paul’s theology)
The New Zealand Bible Society has a great 13 minute video that provides a big picture overview of the Bible: http://www.biblesociety.org.nz/get-resources/for-churches/for-youth-leaders/the-big-pic-for-churches.
Twenty years ago as a new Christ follower I bought an NIV Study Bible and did my reading using it. In the last few years I have come to use the Bible app from YouVersion (www.bible.com) on my phone and iPad for my daily reading. There are numerous reading plans available on that platform, including topical, devotional, partial and whole Bible plans. If you prefer audio to reading, you can also listen to the Bible using the YouVersion apps.
Grow yourself as a leader, invest some time every day, morning or evening, in reading the best business book available and see the benefits lived out in your life, relationships and business.